Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Forbidden City

Mike, Amanda and Margot held out for a nice day to visit the Forbidden City. It was a little cold but as you can the air was very clean.

This is the Hall of Supreme Harmony.
Hall of Supreme Harmony

Despite what you see above the crowds weren't too bad.

All the photos are by Margot.

This is a section on the east side of the Forbidden City that was basically empty.

The tile work is very nice.

Here are Mike and Amanda in front of the Nine Dragon Screen that is in front of the Palace of Tranquil Longevity.

The air was so clear they had to wear shades!

There are pairs of these lions in front of many of the buildings. In fact, they are very popular in front of all sorts of buildings. This is the male because he has a ball under his foot. The female has a baby under her foot.

That is the White Dagoba in Beihai Park outside the Forbidden City. I think that is the opera house inside the Forbidden City on the left.

White Dagoba

These two structures on the hill are in Jingshan Park just north of the Forbidden City.

The tile work on the eaves is interesting. You can learn more about the symbolism of the figures at this link ---> Figures

Mike and Amanda in front of Tiananmen.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas in Beijing

Christmas lights at China World Apartments in Beijing

Here are a few pictures of Christmas decorations near our apartment in Beijing.

This is actually inside the lobby of our apartment and greets you as you walk in the front door.
Christmas lights at China World in Beijing

The color theme at China World this year is purple. It took a crew about 6 weeks to to put up all these lights. These are real trees with lights out onto every branch.
Christmas lights at the China World complex in Beijing

This is down the street a bit. The tree in the center is a huge aluminum and plexiglas structure that changes color. It must be 25 feet tall.

Here is the same tree from another angle.

I have been asked why the Chinese decorate for Christmas. Well, for the vast majority of Chinese it is strictly secular. There is, in general, very little knowledge about the Christian faith for those not raised in Christian families.

In recent years the government has stopped being openly antagonistic toward religion but from what I can see there have been no western religious studies in school - not even from an historical point of view.

So, in the end it is all about the commercialization of Christmas. The holiday decorations are all over but strictly secular. You may hear a religious hymn over the PA mixed with Jingle Bells, etc. but I suspect that is only because the person in charge doesn't understand English well enough to appreciate the lyrics.

I have no idea what the light count at China World is but it has to be in the millions.

This tree is in the lobby of our building. Be sure to click to enlarge and check out the tag just above the presents.

Here are links to last years postings on the same subject.
Christmas in Beijing 2012 - 1
Christmas in Beijing 2012 - II
Christmas in Beijing 2012 - III

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Great Wall at Er Dao Guan

building at Er Dao Guan in Beijing

During Mike and Amanda's visit we signed up for a tour to the Great Wall through China Culture Center. This tour includes a visit to a small village and the opportunity to meet a villager and his family.
Stone building at Er Dau Guan village in Beijing

The village at Er Dao Guan is about 300 years old and is fairly typical of rural villages in the Beijing area.
Old doorway at Er Dao Guan village in Beijing

The Chinese are big proponents of the old adage "Good fences make good neighbors." Most homes are arranged in a square or rectangular manner with one entrance to the outside and a center courtyard.

This doorway leads to a center courtyard.
Corn mill at Er Dao Guan village in Beijing

This is a corn mill. We passed by a working mill on the bus on our way but I couldn't get the camera organized in time. I'm not sure if this one has been permanently retired or just out of service at this time. Basically the roller frame is pulled by a mule walking in a circle around the device. The corn is spread on the round horizontal stone and crushed by the roller stone.

Raising ducks in the small river was popular. We saw several areas with ducks on the water.

We visited this guy and his wife in their home. I'm sorry but I can't remember his name. This is the bedroom. The bed is known as a kang or heated stone bed. There is a small oven outside often used for cooking. The flue circulates under the bed and then out a stack on the outside of the room. Pretty basic accommodation but notice the  laptop and cable modem for high speed internet access.

This is the man's wife. She was crippled by a childhood illness. Notice the handicapped ramp access to the home. I didn't ask but judging by the handrail I imagine this was built by the village government as a social benefit.

For all those inquiring minds, their home had piped running water and a sit down flush toilet.

This old man is hauling firewood - really sticks - from the hillside chestnut plantation to the village for use as firewood.

The firewood is used for cooking a heating of the kangs and general home heating.

We visited in late November so people were stocking up. You see firewood stacked all over the village.
Chestnut statue at Er Dao Guan in Beijing

OK. Quick - what was the first thing that popped into your mind when you saw this statue or monument?

This is actually a chestnut statue. This area has extensive chestnut orchards all over the hills.

Click to enlarge.

These next few pictures are from a largely abandoned village.

The pile of stuff on the right are chestnut husks. I think these are burned for fuel, also.

This building is fitted with paper windows. As you can see the are not in good repair. It is currently used for storage - not human habitation.

This guy is carrying a couple of buckets of very smelly night soil down to the garden to use as fertilizer.

With 1.3 billion people. China uses a lot of the world's resources. On the other hand, they recycle everything possible - not out of some altruistic, save-the-earth ethos but for economic necessity.
The Great Wall near Er Dao Guan village in Beijing

The section of the Great Wall we visited is un-restored. Part of it has been stabilized to prevent further deterioration but a lot of it has not received any attention.

Here are Mike and Amanda standing at one of the old guard towers. They hiked on up to several other towers but I stopped here.

Here is a shot back down the wall. Margot and a couple others choose to sit and chat with our guides instead of climbing up the wall.

This guy hauled some souvenirs up to the wall in hope of selling a bit to the very few visitors to the wall that day. There were 7 in our group and we saw 3 others on our way down. So maybe he had 15 or 20 potential sales that day. Margot bought some postcards so he didn't have a complete bust.

I looked this up in my translator. It makes more sense in Chinese. It says that carrying embers into the mountain is prohibited. It is very dry and fire is a big concern in the area.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Mike and Amanda go to Beijing

Michael and Amanda come to Beijing for a visit just before Thanksgiving. We really enjoyed their visit.

First up on their itinerary was the Temple of Heaven. It is one of the "must sees" in Beijing. As you can see the weather was very nice. Overall they had great weather for this time of year. It got a little cold when the wind picked up but on the other hand the wind means clear skies.

I've posted a lot of pictures from the Temple of Heaven. Here are links to some earlier ones for more discussion about the complex.

Tom and Misheil
Temple of Heaven 2009

This is the main hall at the Temple of Heaven from in the gate.

Pictures by Margot.

Getting together to sing is a popular pastime.

I think these are incense of offering burners.

We also visited the Bell Tower and Drum Tower.

It was late in the afternoon and the light was nice.

This is the Drum Tower.

This is the Bell Tower. They are located near each other separated by the plaza/parking area.

Here is a link to an earlier post with more information about the 2 towers.

Drum and Bell Towers

This is the bell.

This is the Drum Tower with this lights coming on as the sun sets.

One evening we took a walk over to "The Place". That is the English name. I'm not sure what the Chinese name is but it looks more complicated.

It is basically a shopping mall on both sides separated by this HUGE LED screen over the plaza. The scenes are accompanied by music.

The screen is 250 meters long. Think 2 and a half football fields in length.

The scenes have something for everyone. They range from fairy tale to fantasy to space/cosmos type scenes. It s quite a scene with the screen and the reflection on all the store windows.

That is a Christmas decoration in the middle. More on Christmas in Beijing in a later post.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Lijiang at Night

Lijiang, Yunnan at night

Here are a few pictures from Lijiang at night to wrap up the series.

I don't think I mentioned it but Lijiang pretty far south. It is at about the same latitude as Fort Lauderdale, for instance.
Water wheels in Lijiang, Yunnan, China

The elevation makes all the difference in the climate. The city itself is at about 7,900 ft above sea level. It is pretty cool in the evening at the first of November.
Waterway in Lijiang

This is one of the canals or rivers that run through the old town.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in Lijiang as seen from the Crowne Plaza Hotel

Finally, one last look at the mountain.

Here are the other Lijiang postings if you missed one.

Lijiang By Day
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
Impression Lijiang
Lanyue Gu and Shuhe Village